Packaging Trends – Highlights from the 2nd Annual Food Packaging Technologies Summit

Posted on 5/21/2012 8:08:06 AM By Jeff Timm

I was fortunate to attend and lead a panel on bioplastics at the recently held Food Packaging Technologies Summit, Itasca, IL organized by Packaging Strategies.  This Summit is the only global event focused solely on the connection between the food industry and packaging.  Attending were key brand owners, retailers, packaging converters, raw material suppliers, service suppliers and others focusing on developing and bringing to market the next generation of food packaging and related technologies and innovations.

Many speakers discussed packaging trends as part of their presentation.  Some themes were repeated, many having huge impact on converters and material suppliers not just the brand owners.  Sustainability, food safety and package security were three of the top trends.  I have covered sustainability in prior blogs and food safety and security deserves its own blog especially as it relates to the 2011 enacted Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the looming final rules which are being established now.

The key note presentation by Sonoco Products Chairman/CEO Harris DeLoach covered additional trends he sees across the global food packaging market including consumer convenience, the aging population and packaging format changes.

  • Convenience has always been a trend in packaging.  (Tell that to the brand owners who still employ hard to open blister packaging!)  Conveniences like designing for easier open packages will be a bigger deal every year as the boomers age and their physical dexterity deteriorates.  According to the 2010   U. S. Census 24.7% of the population is greater than 55 years old and 12.7% is greater than 65 years old.  With folks living longer this trend can only become more critical to everyday packaging.
  • Conveniences like retort and microwave ready to eat meals appeals to the mobile life style and time crunched Millenniums and X’er parents trying to put healthy meals on the table while trying to get the kids homework done.
  • Convenience as in steam in bag packaging for ready to eat vegetables and meals was covered by Nick Greco, Global Segment Manager, Designed and Engineered Solutions, Avery Dennison, Strongsville, OH who discussed their steam valve technology, applied to a high heat resistant sealant film as a self contained PSA label. 
  • A packaging format change was demonstrated by the shift from metal to composite cans (Sonoco) and plastic cans (Graham Packaging Company).  Also composite to rigid plastic and plastic bottle to pouch is a very rapidly growing phenomenon especially in the energy drink area.

What do all these trends have in common?  I saw OPPORTUNITY!  Opportunity for new substrates, new inks, new adhesives and new ways for the brand owner message to reach out.  The front end of this opportunity is innovation.  Collaboration and open innovation are the way of progressive companies today.  All raw material component members and other cross functional stake holders of a packaging should be engaged in the packaging design process.  Who is at the table with the packaging engineer when the edict comes down from marketing to shift to a new design, safe, sustainable, format or convenient package?  Have you encouraged active participation from all your suppliers and supply chain partners?  Are there development personnel on the design team?

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